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Broadcasters and Disability Organisation Draw Up Common Recommendation on Future EU Rules for Audiovisual Access Services

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the European Disability Forum (EDF), and the Association of Commercial Television in Europe (ACT) have made a common proposal to improve the accessibility of audiovisual media services for persons with disabilities.

Broadcasters and the umbrella organisation of the European disability movement reached this agreement upon the initiative of the Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Petra Kammerevert, who is preparing the European Parliament’s report on the revision of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD).

EDF, EBU and ACT (the signatories) expect these measures to enhance the accessibility of TV programmes for persons with disabilities, in particular via subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing, audio description, spoken subtitles and sign language interpretation, also known as access services.

Federal Complaint Alleges School District Website ‘Inaccessible’

In civil-rights complaint, parent-advocate seeks to make website fully useable for students with disabilities by Elena Kadvany / Palo Alto Weekly

A special-education advocate from Michigan who has filed more than 1,000 federal complaints against school districts alleging their websites are inaccessible to students and adults with disabilities has brought her grassroots campaign to Palo Alto.

Marcie Lipsitt, a parent-turned-education advocate, confirmed to the Weekly that she filed a complaint against the district with the Office for Civil Rights, though she is not named in the complaint itself. The federal civil-rights agency notified the district in late January that it was investigating allegations that certain pages on the district’s recently redesigned website are not accessible to people with vision impairments and other disabilities.

Court Says Settlement Agreement Does Not Bar Later Website Accessibility Lawsuit by a Different Plaintiff

by Kristina Launey

Kristina Launey,
Minh Vu
Seyfarth Shaw LLP

Seyfarth Synopsis: With the recent proliferation of web accessibility demand letters and lawsuits, businesses often ask whether settling a claim with one plaintiff will bar future lawsuits brought by different plaintiffs. One federal judge recently said no.

Plaintiffs Rachel Gniewskowski, R. David New, and Access Now, Inc.represented by Carlson, Lynch, Kilpela & Sweetsued retailer Party City in the Western District of Pennsylvania on September 6, 2016, alleging that Party Citys website is not accessible to visually impaired consumers in violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). On October 7, 2016 (while the Pennsylvania lawsuit was pending), Party City entered into a confidential settlement agreement with Andres Gomez, who had previously filed a similar lawsuit in Florida. Both lawsuits contained the same basic set of facts and legal claims, and sought similar reliefmodification of the website to make it accessible to, and useable by, individuals with disabilities.

Acceptable Identification Document Policies – Call to action!

by Alan Shaw
February 9, 2017

If you’ve ever been denied a good or service, namely that of a wireless service, this is your opportunity to express your concerns and experiences and have them presented directly to those who can make a difference.

I currently have an active Canadian Human Rights claim against one of Canada’s major wireless carriers following a denial of service back in March 2015. My case at this time has been referred to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and we are now in mediations and failing a negotiated settlement we will be going to a full public tribunal hearing.

U.S. Access Board Releases Information and Communication Technology Standards and Guidelines

Monday, January 30, 2017

Earlier this month, in the waning moments of the Obama Administration, the U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (the “Access Board”) took the long-anticipated step of requiring websites of federal government agencies to comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (“WCAG”) 2.0 Levels A and AA. (The Access Board was established in 1973 to develop and maintain standards for accessible design in the built environment, transit vehicles and systems, telecommunications equipment and electronic and information technology.)

5 Ways New Technologies are Empowering People with Disabilities

by Maggie Hammond

While the term adaptive technology is fairly new, throughout history humanity has used technology to make life easier for the sick and disabled. As a matter of fact, one of the oldest and most recognizable examples of adaptive technology is the simple cane used by the blind. Today, adaptive tech is so advanced that it can sometimes border on science fiction. Here are five new technologies that are empowering people with disabilities.

1. The DynaVox EyeMax

The EyeMax allows people with cerebral palsy, stroke, and paralysis to communicate using only their eyes. As they read on an on-screen keyboard, a scanner tracks their eye movements and formulates words and phrases. These are then translated into sound using text-to-speech technology.

Sobey’s Hardware/Software Upgrade Denies Access to Visually Impaired Long-Term Employee

The hearing dates in the case of Jones v Sobey’s West Inc., Case #12888, have been confirmed and will proceed as scheduled, January 16 to 18th 2017.

My name is Juanita Jones, and I have been employed by Safeway since July 2001 as a cashier. During this time I have been very successful in my position even though I am partially-sighted. Over the years, I have received many compliments from regular customers, both as a cashier and as a customer service representative, at my local Safeway store in Surrey, BC.

CCD Disappointed by Electoral Reform Bill C-33

For Immediate Release November 25, 2016

While the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) is pleased with some aspects of the Government’s electoral reform bill, “This Bill fails to respond to most of the important amendments to the Canada Elections Act that CCD proposed,” said John Rae, 1st Vice Chair of CCD.

While we are pleased with provisions regarding vouching and increasing the powers of the Chief Electoral Officer to provide a wide range of information to electors, “the Bill was silent on such topics as making it easier to test telephone and online methods of voting, or to add new sections proposed by CCD which would require access to all candidates’ meetings, candidates’ offices, and the provision of campaign literature in various alternate formats and plain language,” added Rae.

CBC Expands Accessibility Project for Hearing-Impaired Audiences

Initiative to support an estimated 1 to 3 million Canadians who are deaf or hard-of-hearing By Alice Hopton
CBC News, Nov. 24, 2016

As It Happens, co-hosted by Carol Off and Jeff Douglas, is the latest CBC Radio One program to join an initiative providing greater accessibility to Canadians by making transcripts of the daily program available online.

CBC is expanding a successful pilot project to make its radio programming more accessible to those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, with As It Happens to now join The Current in posting daily show transcripts online to read, print and share.

Online Public Services to be Made More Accessible for the Disabled and Elderly

Plenary Session Press release – Citizens’ rights / Information society – 26-10-2016 – 13:25

The websites and apps of public administrations, hospitals, courts and other public sector bodies will have to be made accessible to everyone, under new EU-wide rules approved by the European Parliament on Wednesday. The web accessibility directive, already agreed by Parliament and Council, should make it easier for disabled and elderly people to access data and services on the internet, e.g. to file a tax declaration, apply for an allowance, pay fees or enrol at university.

Free Online Course Enabling Improved Digital Accessibility

Published: 21 October 2016

Academics from the Web and Internet Science (WAIS) research group within Electronics and Computer Science are lead educators on a new, free online course that aims to help learners understand how accessible digital technologies can overcome barriers encountered by people with sensory, physical or cognitive impairments.

The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society has recently been launched on the FutureLearn platform and already thousands of students from more than 50 countries have signed up.

New Research Could Help Build Better Hearing AIDS

Originally posted September 29, 2016

Scientists at Binghamton University, State University of New York want to improve sensor technology critical to billions of devices made every year. With a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation, they will start by making a high-performance sensor and applying it to hearing aids.

“This [grant] allows us to explore a new sensing mechanism that can revolutionize capacitive sensing by addressing the severe limitation of limited range of motion. This could lead to devices with better sensitivity and functionality,” said principal investigator Sherry Towfighian, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering within the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science at Binghamton University.

Wearable Artificial Vision Device Shows Promise in Helping People Who Are Legally Blind ‘Read’

Date:October 17, 2016 Source:American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO)

A unique wearable artificial vision device may help people who are legally blind “read” and recognize faces. It may also help these individuals accomplish everyday tasks with significantly greater ease than using traditional assistive reading devices, suggests a study presented today at AAO 2016, the 120th annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Approximately 246 million people worldwide have low vision. This sight loss impairs a person’s ability to do simple daily tasks. Optical and electronic devices such as hand-held magnifiers, tele-microscopic glasses and computer and video magnifiers can help. But, typically these devices are bulky, cumbersome or not readily portable. With recent advancements in wearable electronic devices and optical character recognition technology that converts images to computer-readable text, University of California, Davis researchers hypothesized that these newer technologies could help improve patients’ ability to function in daily life.

‘Don’t Ask What’s Wrong with the Reader, What’s Wrong with the Books?’: Writing for Readers with Dyslexia

Wednesday 5 October 2016 17.28 BST Last modified on Wednesday 5 October 2016 17.29 BST

From tinting their pages yellow to redesigning fonts, publisher Barrington Stoke is leading the way in dyslexia-friendly books. They and their authors including Meg Rosoff and Anthony McGowan explain the practicalities

We routinely think of accessibility for buildings, so why not books? artwork for The Genius Aged Eight and a Quarter by Jeremy Strong and illustrated by Jamie Smith

Settlement Reached With Shoppers Drug Mart in BC Human Rights complaint

For Immediate Release
Blind Advocate Reaches Settlement with Shoppers Drug Mart
October 5, 2016
Vancouver, B.C.

Rob Sleath, on behalf of people who are blind or partially sighted and Access for Sight-Impaired Consumers (ASIC), and Shoppers Drug Mart Inc. have agreed to settle a human rights complaint that will see Shoppers Drug Marts in British Columbia offer prescription medication information in an audio format throughout the province.

“This is definitely a step in the right direction for people who are blind or partially sighted in terms of having independent access to essential prescription information,” said Rob Sleath.
“Since my kidney transplant, I have been on a regimen of many different medications. Having prescription medications with attached audio labels means I can independently, confidently and safely manage my medications without fear of consuming any one of them incorrectly.

WIPO Marrakesh Treaty Enters Into Force


The World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) director, Francis Gurry, has welcomed the entry into force of the Marrakesh Treaty.

The treaty entered into force today, September 30, three months after it received the necessary 20 ratifications from WIPO member states.

It aims to help blind and visually impaired people access works, by requiring nations to adopt legal provisions that permit the reproduction and distribution of published works in accessible formats, including Braille, by introducing limitations and exceptions to copyright law.

In July, WIPR reported that Canada ratified the agreement, making it the 20th nation to join the treaty and allowing the treaty to come into force.

Launch Today of New National Video Relay Service Empowers Canada’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community

GATINEAU, QC, Sept. 28, 2016

A new service is launching today in Canada to empower the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community with tools to communicate better and provide them with greater independence.

SRV Canada VRS enables Deaf and Hard of Hearing people who use American Sign Language (ASL) and Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ) to conduct calls via video relay service (VRS) with hearing people through a professional ASL or LSQ interpreter. It simulates, as closely as possible, a conversation between two hearing people.

SRV Canada VRS works as follows:

  • VRS calls are placed using a high-speed Internet connection through a computer, tablet or smartphone.

Australia Adopts New Standard for ICT Accessibility in Procurement

Australia will adopt a new standard for ICT accessibility in procurement, federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann announced today. In time, this should make it easier for people with disabilities to deal with government, and to work for it.

The Department of Finance has already committed to add the new standard to the Commonwealth Procurement Rules, according to the report from former disability discrimination commissioner Susan Ryans last inquiry.

Ryan recommended all Australian governments mandate that when their agencies buy any new IT equipment, including software and peripherals, it must made according to universal design principles so it is available to and usable by all people, whatever their abilities.

UMMS Works to Improve Web Text for People With Cognitive Disabilities

By Ellen Moran
UMass Medical School Communications
August 19, 2016

WPI graduate student Prateek Jain and Soussan Djamasbi, PhD, assistant professor of IT and director of WPI’s User Experience & Decision Making Research Lab, demonstrate the university’s eye-tracking technology, which measures text comprehension.

UMass Medical School’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center is conducting research to determine if simplifying text for people with cognitive disabilities improves their understanding of what they read online.

“We want to prove that their comprehension increases after they read simplified text,” said John Rochford, MS, director of the Shriver Center’s INDEX program and instructor of family medicine & community health. INDEX provides free information for people with disabilities living in Massachusetts.

Attorney General(AG) Healey and National Federation of the Blind Announce Agreement to Make Health Care Kiosks Accessible to Blind Consumers

For Immediate Release – July 26, 2016

Announcement Marks 26th Anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act

BOSTON On the 26th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Attorney General Maura Healey and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) announced a first-of-its-kind agreement with Pursuant Health, Inc. to make its self-service health care kiosks accessible to blind consumers.

The agreement reached with Pursuant Health, an Atlanta-based company that manufactures and operates thousands of self-service health care kiosks in retail stores nationwide, provides meaningful benefits to individuals nationwide who are blind or who have low vision, including 27,000 Massachusetts residents who are legally blind.